The Paudie Palmer column: Adventures in London were Haven-sent

The Paudie Palmer column: Adventures in London were Haven-sent
Castlehaven's Larry Tompkins leads the charge in training before the 1997 county final. Picture: Des Barry.

ON OCCASIONS when high-profile sporting media people retire, they will, if anybody is interested, reminisce about the many venues they have visited in the course of their journey.

This can take on added value if such venues are outside the jurisdiction.

Now, local radio commentators don’t usually retire. Their demise in many cases is brought about by being fired or the grim reaper.

In this scribe’s low-key commentating career, the only occasion I departed the mainland was on February 8, 1998, to cover the All-Ireland club football quarter-final in Ruislip — in the London Borough of Hillingdon — between Castlehaven and Tir Chonnail Gaels.

Both Michael Scanlon, radio producer, and yours truly travelled to London on the Saturday prior to the game in the company of many of the west Cork travelling entourage.

Our resting location was a hotel relatively near to the venue on the outskirts of London — again where many of Haven brigade rested their bones.

As part of the hospitality programme, we were invited to a function somewhere in the centre of London on the Saturday night, about 15 or so miles from the hotel. We travelled in by taxi and were treated so well by our hosts for the night.

I would think that for most revellers who socialise in one of the biggest cities in the world, the entertainment comes from the in-house experience, not here.

I am not too sure of the departure time from the venue but it was certainly after midnight mass time. Again the mode of transport was provided by one of the city’s taxi operators.

We were looking forward, later that day, to watching one of Ireland’s ever greatest footballers Larry Tompkins in action.

Anyway the exit from the city to our suburban resting place began, but the pilot had never heard of the hotel, and with Google maps still at the planning stage this journey began to take on a life of his own.

As time went on it wasn’t so much if we would locate our sleeping quarter but would we make Ruislip for a 1.30pm throw-in?

Maybe it is the case with all members of the taxi fraternity, that this man was in possession of an inner coolness which enabled him to mask all symptoms of panic.

At one stage in the never to be forgotten voyage, we ended up going down this narrow road and all of sudden the vehicle came to a standstill. I looked out a window and just couldn’t believe what was to my left, a feeding trough for cattle and a number of round silage bales.

We were in a field in London. We might as well have been in Annascaul.

Another problem appeared on the horizon as we reversed. The left front wheel was punctured. We weren’t exactly Formula 1 motor engineers either, but to get the job done we all had to pitch in together.

Eventually we got the spare wheel on and somehow found our way to the hotel.

Those who joined us at the breakfast table a few hours later were quite amused by our nighttime antics in the city of London.

A number of them added to their cultural value by attending one of the many shows that are available to the large number of visitors to the English capital.

Soon it was time to depart for the Gaelic games centre for many Irish people who have made a permanent or temporary home in this neck of the woods.

After the savouring some of the pre-match hospitality that was available on arrival at the Emerald grounds, it was time to head to our commentary position.

It was perfect having the pitch out in front of us but when I looked behind me I just could not believe what I was viewing — a fully functioning dairy farmyard.

After spending some time earlier in a London farmer’s field, I didn’t expect that our commentary position was more or less from the side of a yard.

In the game itself played in front of about 2,000 spectators, the Haven, who were without the suspended Niall Cahalane and had Larry Tompkins somewhat hindered by a hamstring injury, struggled somewhat. In the end they emerged with a hard-fought victory principally because of a late unanswered five-point scoring return allied to some wayward shooting by the the London side.

The Castlehaven team that was beaten by Beara in '97. They still landed the Munster title after, as divisional teams aren't allowed progress.
The Castlehaven team that was beaten by Beara in '97. They still landed the Munster title after, as divisional teams aren't allowed progress.

During a post-match interview team coach Christy Collins mentioned that there would have to a huge improvement before playing Erin’s Isle two weeks later.

Sadly for the Castlehaven, in that semi-final clash, it could be said that the west Cork team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Another memorable aspect of the occasion was that prior to throw-in, there was a minutes silence observed for the late Mick McCarthy from Skibbereen.

Small Mick, as he was affectionately known and who was a really outstanding Gaelic footballer was killed in a road accident in the week leading up to the game.

When the game was over it was time to head to the airport, this time there were no agricultural experiences.

The memory of the weekend is well faded except the night time trip around London in a taxi will remain with us for a while.

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